Pragmatism and preaching the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ

But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Galatians 6:14, NASB

In this post I would like to concentrate on a very short passage, 1 Corinthians 2:1-5. This section of Paul’s first epistle to the church at Corinth, beginning at 1:18 and running through 2:16, deals with and contrasts worldly wisdom and godly wisdom. He also deals with the consequences of ministering or walking as a Christian according to pragmatism, which is rooted in worldly or false wisdom. He contrasts that with ministering and walking as a Christian according to true wisdom, which is from God alone. 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 is a short exposition of Paul’s description of how he preached the Gospel to the Corinthians when he planted that church. From this exposition, we will see that he was most certainly not a proponent of gospel contextualization as many of today’s pragmatists insist. We will also see that the Emergents’ insistence that “preaching the message of the Cross is wrong and a distortion of the true gospel” is a fallacy because that assumption is not biblical.

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What do Rick Warren, Russell Moore, Muslims, Mormons and the Pope have in common?

Amy Spreeman, co-host of Stand Up For The Truth, reports:

Yes, traditional marriage is worth standing up for. But do we blend biblical Christianity with dark and blasphemous religious systems, joining hands for ANY cause? I am saddened to report the latest hand-holding gathering between Rome and evangelical, Mormon, Jewish, Muslim, and Sikh leaders.

What does light have to do with darkness? Does anyone else see a problem with this syncretism? Or with Yin and Yang in biblical Christianity? I will start with the very strange video on the conference website:

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Bethel Church’s “apostle” Bill Johnson: a comedy of errors

“Bill Johnson is no stranger to controversy,” says Marsha West. “For one thing, he claims to be an apostle, as in the unique position held by the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ.” Are the self-proclaimed apostles and prophets in the same league as the Old Testament prophets and New Testament Apostles as they claim? Or are these men and women what Jesus declared “ravenous wolves” in Matthew 7:15? In West’s two part series, discover the many twists and turns the new apostolic-prophetic movement has taken over the years.

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Liberty University student editor raises concern after calling for “common ground” with homosexuals

According to Christian News Network:

An editor of Liberty University’s student newspaper is raising concern after releasing an article that calls upon Christians and homosexuals to find “common ground.”

“Common ground is what makes the world continue to move, grow and advance,” wrote Tre Goins-Phillips, opinion editor of The Liberty Champion, named after the university’s motto “Training Champions for Christ.”

His comments were in response to an opinion piece written by Apple’s Tim Cook and published by Bloomberg Businessweek, in which Cook came out as a homosexual.

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Moved by the Holy Spirit

for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. 2 Peter 1:21, NASB

οὐ γὰρ θελήματι ἀνθρώπου ἠνέχθη προφητεία ποτέ, ἀλλʼ ὑπὸ πνεύματος ἁγίου φερόμενοι ἐλάλησαν ἀπὸ θεοῦ ἄνθρωποι. 2 Peter 1:21, NA28

It is vital that we “get it” that without the foundation of the inspiration of Scripture, all we have is human subjectivity as the basis for truth and that opens the door to the mindset of “anything goes.” We see this with heretics. We see this in liberal churches and denominations. As soon as they drop the Bible as the authoritative Word of God then all sorts of heresies creep in and it isn’t long before all these people stand for has about as much substance as malformed jello. Several years ago I listened to a debate between Chris Rosebrough and Doug Pagitt on the doctrine of Hell. I remember very well marveling at Chris’ patience in dealing with the absolute indefiniteness of Pagitt on all topics pertaining to how we know what is truth. It was a bit like trying to nail that malformed jello to a tree in a stiff breeze. In any case, I was not surprised. Why? Pagitt is a heretic. He isn’t a Christian. He may claim to be, but if you try to get him to line up with what really defines what a Christian is Biblically, he will refuse to do it because, to him, that is just too precise.

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Genuine Christian Character

Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a good conscience, desiring to conduct ourselves honorably in all things. And I urge you all the more to do this, so that I may be restored to you the sooner. Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. Hebrews 13:18–21, NASB

R.C. Sproul once shared the following encounter, “Several years ago I was participating in a discussion with some business men in Jackson, Mississippi. In the course of the conversation, one of the men made reference to a man who was not present at the meeting. He said, ‘He is an honorable man.’ When I heard this comment, my ears perked up as I thought for a moment I was hearing a foreign language being spoken. I realized that I was in the middle of the Deep South where customs of old had not entirely been eradicated, yet I still could not get over that somebody in this day and age was using the word honor as descriptive term for a human being.” Is the term “honor” as a descriptive term for a human being out of place in our day and time? If we look up “honor” in our dictionaries we will find that its chief synonym is “integrity.”

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Who is it that overcomes the world?

“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. John 15:18–19, NASB

Over that last several post I have attempted to teach from God’s Word the lessons geared toward drawing Christians to self-examination and repentance. Why? The Church, the truth Church, is not organizations or buildings, but is, instead, a group of people whom God has called out of this world. True Christians are called to love not this world. Instead, they are to love the Lord their God even more than our own lives. However, after decades of being attacked by false shepherds and bad theology, the visible church is very sick. Within it is the True Church and we are encouraging all Christians to pray and get serious about their walk with Christ for it is only through this that we overcome the world.

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A prayer for God to grant the Church repentance

Praise you Lord! I pray for your glory! Hallowed be thy name! I pray for you to bless your children with wisdom and discernment that they may serve you. I pray that they will seek and gain, by your grace, personal holiness! I pray for you to draw your children, your Church, your called out ones, into self-examination and repentance and a separation from a love of this world. I pray for their religion to be holy and blessed by you as it is focused entirely on your glory not their fulfillment. I pray that as your children repent you will also deliver them from the evil leaders that are in power all over this world. Your will be done Lord! If it is your will that we stand firm in the fire then sustain us by your Spirit. Be glorified in us my Lord.

Soli Deo Gloria!

All Christians are called to be holy

“Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit. Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks.” Luke 12:33–36, NASB

One recurring warning throughout the New Testament is that Christians should live in such a way that they will be ready when their Lord returns. What would that life look like? How should we live in order to be ready when He comes and knocks? I doubt that it would look like the self-indulgent, pop-culture oriented, heavily marketed, so-called Christian lifestyle that waters down the gospel and breeds “Christians” who are both theologically and scripturally ignorant. They follow “another Jesus” whose creators have designed to fit the image that draws the crowd they want. The “followers” of this “other Jesus” resent any call to live lives of repentance before a Holy God who is to be feared. What does the life look like that is prepared for our Lord’s return?

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Pastors endorsing candidates in defiance of IRS rules

Fox News reports:

Christian pastors reportedly are defying IRS rules and endorsing political candidates at an unprecedented rate.

Under IRS rules, nonprofits – such as churches – are allowed to discuss politically sensitive subjects in their sermons, but historically have been barred from actively campaigning and endorsing particular candidates. But a growing number of pastors are challenging that standard – and the IRS may be looking the other way.

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The bedrock of Christianity is repentance

Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, “ Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Luke 13:1–5, NASB

Several years ago I became involved in discussion on an “emergent blog” that was proclaiming that it is perfectly fine for Christians to use profanity and those who call them on it are being hypocritical and self-righteous. I have always taught that the genuine believer is regenerate, a new creation, whom God is the process of sanctifying. Our humility must come to predominate our pride. The prideful person is self-focused while the humble person is not.

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Tyranny and Christian obedience

Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. Ephesians 5:22–27, NASB

The main argument that I run into in debates and discussions these days after scripture is used to nullify an opponent’s arguments is that he or she “does not agree” with whatever doctrinal position I am defending. In other words, the veracity of a truth is determined by their belief in it or not. That is a completely invalid argument. The qualities of a truth that make it true are not dependent upon whether people believe it to be true. Our enemy, a liar from the beginning, is hard at work selling compromise as something vital in our relationships and all dealings with others.

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A fool and his folly

Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned. Titus 3:10–11, NASB

Secular humanism, relativism, pluralism, et cetera are worldly philosophies that have invaded the visible Church. These ways of the world when applied to the Church are some of the things that “stirs up division” within the Body of Christ. Other things that cause this would be majoring in minors such as taking things from the Bible that are not explained in detail enough to be taken literally because they are given to us in an arbitrary fashion. Some take these minor points and make them major points in the gospel stirring up division. Also, some simply want to argue. They hate the truth and are not interested in it being explained to them in detail. These are the ones Paul was speaking of in Titus 3:10–11 (above). It is a total waste of time to contend with these people continually. There comes a time when, through God’s wisdom, that we move on and have nothing to do with these divisive people.

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All Scripture is breathed out by God

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16–17, NASB

Over the years that this blog has been online I have received numerous negative comments from people that I have never allowed to be posted. Why? It is because those who made those comments either do not bother to follow the rules clearly posted, which are assiduously enforced, or they have failed to read them. Their error is that they they attack what is posted here from sacred Scripture as truth, in context, clearly exposited and exegeted with innuendo, human philosophy, but never, I repeat, never do they go to God’s Word and make any attempt to show me where I have erred in my exegesis of the text. In fact, I cannot remember anyone ever doing that since this blog has been online, but I have received more attempts than I can remember to protest and derail the truth from God’s Word from the humanistic platform of outrage that God is Sovereign and they are not. One hot topic has always been the fact that sacred Scripture is the inspired Word of God and that makes it infallible and inerrant, but what makes it so abhorrent to those who insist on protesting, it also means that the truths it presents are God’s truths and that our sovereign God is going to hold all outside of the Body of Christ accountable to His Law and are, therefore, liable to His wrath. They, therefore, hate God’s truth and resist it as such hoping, I suppose, that this will somehow remove their liability.

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The Shepherd of the sheep

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. John 10:1–2, NASB

Just because a person claims to be a Christian does not mean that he or she is regenerate, justified, sanctified, or adopted into God’s family. Many base their standing as a Christian on religious acts they have done. Others claim salvation based upon their good words plus their religion. Tragically, there are also many, and more each day it seems, “Christian leaders” who preach and teach things that they portray as the Good News, but are, instead, only the result of marketing techniques. What is Jesus’ standard of being one of his shepherds? Look at the passage I placed at the top of this post. Who was Jesus speaking to when he made that statement? We have to back up a few verses for that.

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Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?

As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Mark 10:17, NASB

The natural man cannot conceive of eternal life coming to anyone who does not “earn” or somehow “deserve” it. Jesus’ teaching set the record straight, but many today still do not regard what He said. Even preachers and religious leaders have bent the truth and twisted it in such a way so as to provide a way for professing believers to have a “work” they could point back to that marks them as having done that one thing that enables them to inherit eternal life. The Kingdom of God is not earned by people who somehow elevate themselves higher than others through their good works or their religiosity. No, our Lord used children as examples whom He referred to this way, “For the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”

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God must be the focus of all our worship and praise

Some eight days after these sayings, He took along Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while He was praying, the appearance of His face became different, and His clothing became white and gleaming. And behold, two men were talking with Him; and they were Moses and Elijah, who, appearing in glory, were speaking of His departure which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions had been overcome with sleep; but when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men standing with Him. Luke 9:28–32, NASB

Much of this ministry is focused on exposing the makeup of the dividing line between genuine Christianity, that which is God centered, and counterfeit Christianity, that which is man centered. We will now look at the vast difference in how each side understands the concepts of God’s glory and the praise that is His due. The word most often translated as praise in the New Testament is δόξα or doxa. It is also translated even more often as glory. However, in secular Greek, δόξα means opinion or conjecture, especially favorable human opinion, which then includes an evaluation placed by others, such as fame, repute, honor, or praise. Is this what is meant in God’s Word when δόξα is used in reference to God’s glory and the praise that His due? I submit that that definition exactly defines most professing Christians’ understanding of praise and worship, but is not in any way shape or form Biblical δόξα.

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You are not under law but under grace

For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be. Romans 6:14–15, NASB

Most of the formative years of my Christian walk were spent in one church from February 1987 through February 2000. During that time we had three pastors. I was in some form of teaching for most of that time. One of the things that always came up when we studied the Old Testament was Romans 6:14–15. It was as if someone always had to make sure that we were not being legalistic. They cast the law as far from them and our church as the East is from the West. Is that how we are to treat God’s Law?

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Bearing much fruit

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. John 15:1–8, NASB

Are Christians commanded to be fruitful? Are we to be productive in the Kingdom of God? Carefully read the passage I placed at the top of this post. In v. 1 our Lord Jesus tells us that He is the vine and that His Father is the vinedresser. In v. 2 He makes it clear that there will always be professing Christians who are not genuine. How do we know this? They bear no fruit at all. They are lifeless branches that are taken away and burned. A person who does not bear fruit is not a true believer and will one day be taken away to an eternity in Hell. Here is v. 2 from the Greek: πᾶν κλῆμα ἐν ἐμοὶ μὴ φέρον καρπόν, αἴρει αὐτό, καὶ πᾶν τὸ καρπὸν φέρον, καθαίρει αὐτὸ, ἵνα πλείονα καρπὸν φέρῃ. The word used here that is translated as “bear” is φέρον the present active participle version of φέρω or pherō. In other words, this is talking about continuous or repeated action. Branches who bear no fruit (μὴ φέρον καρπόν), are so as a way of life. On the other hand, our Lord says that genuine branches in the vine who do bear fruit (καρπὸν φέρον) do so as a way of life and he adds that the Father prunes them in order to make them even more fruitful. Then, in vv. 5 and 8 we read that some branches will bear “much fruit.” In other words, some believers will be exceptionally more fruitful than others, but all genuine believers will be fruitful. How can we reach this “much more fruitful” level?

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Post tenebras lux

The Doctrine of Justification by Faith alone, or sola fide, was the key of the Protestant Reformation. Its recovery was from the darkness created by the dominance of man-made religiosity, which held that justification was accomplished through faith plus good works. This grew into people being required to do religious acts in order to be considered righteous. The driving force of the Reformation was captured by the Latin phrase post tenebras lux (after darkness, light).

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Fellowship/koinōnia

They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Acts 2:42, NASB

Most of the churches I attended in my life had something called “fellowship” and some even had space dedicated to it called “fellowship hall” or something similar. We had time after “church” that was called “fellowship time” that always seemed to be a relaxed time of visiting together and just being friendly with each other outside of normal “church stuff.” In the New Testament the word that is translated as “fellowship” as in Acts 2:42 (above) is κοινωνια or koinōnia, which Greek scholar Kenneth Wuest has defined as, “joint participation in a common interest or activity.” Instead of simply a friendly time of visiting together or a coming together for relaxation, κοινωνια, then, is a partnership, a sharing of something in common.

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Preaching error and making confident assertions with seemingly full assurance

For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions. 1 Timothy 1:6–7, NASB

God is not the author of confusion. His truth is clear and discernable by the regenerate heart. On the other hand, our enemy, being the source of lies and deception, must create a climate in which what his false teachers expound is disguised as the truth and there will be attempts by those defending these false teachings to demand tolerance so that their error will not be open to detailed scrutiny. It is all a paradigm of smoke and mirrors. Rob Bell has taught, for instance, that it is wrong to use the Bible as our plumb line, our standard of truth. Whenever any of us address these things he says, out come his defenders with their smoke and mirrors attempting to redirect the focus from Bell to those demanding that he be held to account as a false teacher. They call us divisive and all sorts of other things in their attempt to deflect our scrutiny. The Church must withstand false teachers. Just because they preach with assurance does not mean they are right and that the source of what they are teaching is from God.

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The depths of God

Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; but just as it is written, “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, And which have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love Him.” For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. 1 Corinthians 2:6–10, NASB

I’m sure the title of this post struck some of you in a way hard to explain. When I first started this study, I could not help but think back on an investigation I did many years ago into some false teachings by a man who claimed that his ministry was based entirely “in the deep things of God.” That mysterious statement seemed to be used by him as a smokescreen to hide the fact that he was teaching rank heresy and that heresy was claimed by him to be coming to him as a direct revelation from God. Well, if that were true then it would indeed be “the deep things of God,” but what he was teaching was very shallow spiritually and really called for people to become submissive to him as a prophet based on one thing; he said so. This is not what the depths of God (the deeps things of God) are. Let us take a closer look.

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Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord … but suffer together in the Gospel by the power of God

μὴ οὖν ἐπαισχυνθῇς τὸ μαρτύριον τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν μηδὲ ἐμὲ τὸν δέσμιον αὐτοῦ, ἀλλὰ συγκακοπάθησον τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ κατὰ δύναμιν θεοῦ, τοῦ σώσαντος ἡμᾶς καὶ καλέσαντος κλήσει ἁγίᾳ, οὐ κατὰ τὰ ἔργα ἡμῶν ἀλλὰ κατὰ ἰδίαν πρόθεσιν καὶ χάριν, τὴν δοθεῖσαν ἡμῖν ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ πρὸ χρόνων αἰωνίων 2 Timothy 1:8–9, NA28

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, 2 Timothy 1:8–9, NASB

The Apostle Paul’s understanding of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and that of most of what we refer to as the visible church in our time is quite different. I’m not talking about Reformed theology as opposed to Arminianism or semi-Pelagianism or even Pelagianism here. No, I am talking about the Good News itself and its impact on the believer and all those whom God touches through it as it preached and shared by obedient disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ. Remember, the real, un-doctored Gospel must contain the offense of the cross. It must be offensive in that it addresses the fact that each and every one of us is hopelessly lost and and on our way to an eternity separated from God in judgment because we are sinners who can do nothing to save ourselves from God’s Wrath which must come upon on all sin with no exceptions. That is why the Gospel is “Good News” and glorious, my brethren.

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